08-11-21 | Feature

Jack Daniel's Distillery, Lynchburg, Tennessee

Jack Daniel's Distillery
by Shadley Associates

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and home to an iconic American brand, the Jack Daniel's Distillery is a major tourist destination. When the Lynchburg, Tennessee, legend required some upgrades, Shadley Associates, PC was selected as the project managers. The landscape architecture firm has served the site for over 22 years, first in conjunction with Carol R. Johnson Associates. Shadley then took over as the lead designer and prime consultant, and since has guided the design and construction of over fifteen projects. The site has to accommodate the overlapping functions of pedestrian tours and industrial production within the same footprint. For all projects on this latest series of renovation, the landscape architects employed only industrial materials and detailing from local practices and found on site.
The enhanced transportation system included a new entrance drive and drop off, bus and shuttle drop-off loop, and employee, ADA and motorcycle parking, accessible walkways and a transition space between areas. A grade separation between the shuttle drop off and the pedestrian walkways was designed to provide more safety as seen in this illustration.
Hand-drawn plans were used to illustrate the site improvements. The client supported this graphic technique including this plan of the property improvements at the Cave Spring and around Jack's Office.
The 230' Mulberry Creek Footbridge traverses 10' of grade. Designed to resemble the trestle bridges from Jack Daniel's days, it is constructed of powder coated steel with an ipe wood deck and stone clad piers with 19' deep reinforced concrete footings. One challenge was to drop the deck to the bottom of the cross braces and to add a code-compliant picket railing inboard of the cross braces. It has reportedly reduced vehicular traffic pollution and congestion
This longstanding house was relocated, rebuilt, and repurposed as a Welcome Center. It screens the new parking lot, which lies further behind.
The new bronze statue of "Mr. Jack" was sculpted by Tennessee artist Alan LeQuire and was sited at this location beside the Cave Spring. Stone walls and pavements were added: the pavement is 2-1/4" thick limestone, set over a 5" thick concrete slab and mortared in place. The walls are comprised of weathered limestone ledge that had been salvaged from other projects on the site. The boulders were repurposed also, being relocated from different areas of the Distillery grounds. Behind the statue, a small earthen mound separates the space. Native groundcover was transplanted from elsewhere on the property. The three multi-system trees above and to the right of the statue are all hickory
The Cave Spring, "The Heart of the Site" is the source of all the "Sweetwater" used to make Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey. It was worn and dated, ready for a refurbishment. Floods from the Cave Spring damaged an original limestone statue and landscape while contaminating water downstream in Mulberry Creek. This new flume was added to prevent flooding and protect water quality. The aged native stone used for the flume was found on site, blending it seamlessly with the naturally occurring stone of the Cave Spring.
Shadley Associates sited and constructed the new Barbeque Pavilion to minimize its impacts. The previous structure was an undersized, ramshackle fire hazard that also lacked universal accessibility. The new one is a 120' x 120', post and beam shed roof structure made of rough sawn Georgia Pine with black iron reinforcing. The landscape architects collaborated on the 40'-tall stone fireplace, and directed the placement of native boulders to provide seating. Precedents included National Parks Service structures and local post and beam tobacco barn architecture.

Campus Overview

The Jack Daniel's Distillery is located in Lynchburg, Tennessee, and while Jack Daniel's whiskey is certainly known all over the world, the Distillery itself has also attracted legions of devoted fans. Prior to COVID 19, nearly 300,000 people visited the Jack Daniel's Distillery every year, and on a typical Saturday during the busy season over 7,000 tourists would visit the site and most of them would take the walking tour, all in groups of 27 or less. The tours are interesting, informative, and fun. The tour guides are local celebrities, and much theatre is involved in conveying the incredibly rich cultural history with a wink and subtle humor. A considerable amount of genuine Tennessee folk lore is preserved here. It is the oldest registered distillery in the United States and the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. All of the Jack Daniel's whiskey production, (over 31,000,000 gallons a year), and all of the tours (over 150 a day) take place within the same tiny 50-acre area. These two side-by-side and overlapping functions are very carefully choreographed and managed.

The Landscape Architect has worked at the site for over 22 years, first as the project manager during the Master Planning while with Carol R. Johnson Associates, and then as the lead designer and prime consultant for over fifteen distinct constructed projects, after founding Shadley Associates, PC. Prior to the Landscape Architect's involvement, projects at the Distillery had been handled in a piecemeal fashion, and the landscape had suffered a prolonged gradual degradation. Guided by extensive research and analysis of the site and its 150-year history, a series of guiding principles informed design and construction standards that are now in effect, and with their application, the work completed at the Distillery over the last two decades balances the sensitive treatment of this historic landscape with its contemporary uses as a manufacturing facility, a major tourism destination, and an American cultural icon. The Landscape Architect has created beautiful and universally accessible spaces throughout the site from which to experience this unique, living museum, and a few of them are highlighted below:

Visitor's Center Drop-off

Due to the sixfold increase in visitation in the last 50 years, vehicular traffic volumes and congestion at the front of the Visitor's Center became unmanageable, and so a new off-site guest parking lot with a Welcome Center was created and the existing drop-off loop at the front door to the Visitor Center was redeveloped. An accessible and very pleasant walking route from the parking lot was designed and constructed, and now only the shuttles, vehicles requiring accessible parking, and motorcycles are allowed on the drop-off loop. One of the unique things about Jack Daniel's is that an unusually large portion of their enthusiasts are motorcyclists, and their specific parking requirements were accommodated at the drop off loop.

The entrance to the Visitor's Center has been transformed into a predominantly pedestrian experience, with many benches and a Fun Spot to play at before or after tours. Shuttles disembark and visitors now have an unrushed and peaceful arrival experience, allowing them to decompress from travelling to the property, and to immerse themselves in the unhurried ambience and hospitality at the place. Guests make their way across a stone bridge to a welcoming courtyard, complete with wrap around porches and many rockers waiting to be relaxed in.

Mulberry Creek Footbridge

Prior to the installation of the Footbridge, most visitors who had completed the Distillery tour would return to their cars and drive the short distance (only about 1/8 mile!) to downtown Lynchburg to dine, shop, and sight-see in the downtown, which is also historic and a treat to visit. The new footbridge has a gentle, ADA compliant slope as it traverses over 10' of grade change, and it provides a walk through the canopies of the trees along the river, so as to entice people to walk to town rather than drive. It has been a very successful introduction, reducing vehicular traffic congestion, parking problems, and pollution. It's also a fun landscape event that happens to be good for public health.

The Footbridge traverses Mulberry Creek, which often rises over 10' during flood stages. The design concept was inspired by the trestle bridges from the era of Jack Daniel's industrial heyday, and the biggest design moves for the bridge were to drop the deck to the bottom of the sturdy cross braces. The bridge is comprised of three main segments and runs a total length of 230', not including the sloped concrete landings at each end. The largest span is about 120' between the piers. Only three trees were impacted by the bridge installation.

The Cave Spring and Jack Daniel's Office

The Cave Spring is the heart of the Distillery and the highlight of the visitor's tour experience. It is where Jack Daniel discovered the source of the essential, acid-free "Sweetwater" that is still used to make his product today. "Mr. Jack" located his office here in front of the Cave, and he often slept here to guard the main ingredient needed for his whiskey. The office is over 150 years old, and it stands intact in its original location. It had suffered some structural deterioration but it has since been repaired as a part of these projects, with the work being done in accordance with National Historic Register standards.

The terrace at the mouth of the cave had last been rebuilt in the 1970s and it had become very worn. The paved areas were too small, there were trip hazards, and the terrace was prone to occasional flooding. A limestone statue of Jack Daniel had stood here for decades but had been badly damaged when a tree had fallen on it. Also, with the greatly increased number of tours taking place, groups absorbing the quite educational program presented at the mouth of the cave were often distracted by other simultaneous tours taking place just 60' away at the Jack Daniel's statue, where the guides tell jokes and tall tales, and the guests are encouraged to have fun while getting their photo taken with the new bronze statue of Mr. Jack, by Tennessee sculptor Alan LeQuire.

The entire area was renovated with new stone walls, boulders, and pavements, all built with the vernacular materials and craftsmanship consistent with the property's significant period of history. A small, earthen mound with stone ledge was introduced to create two distinct gathering spaces, and it provides enough distance and separation from the Jack Daniel's statue area to mitigate that distraction, while enhancing the primordial sense of enclosure at the mouth of the cave. A new stone flume reduces and diverts flood events. All of the naturally patinaed boulders were located from other areas on the property and moved to the Cave, and native groundcovers were transplanted from nearby on the site. The stone at the flume was added to that which had previously fallen from the face of the cave opening above, and now moss has formed where water drips down from the cave opening.

The Barbeque Pavilion

The Barbeque Pavilion is open on both ends and the western end faces Lynchburg Valley and enjoys fabulous sunsets. There are two full-service bars, two performance stage areas, and a kitchen that serves full dinners for up to 800 guests. It has a two-sided fireplace which is over 40' tall, with a raised seating hearth that measures 20' x 8' at the base. The design was inspired by local tobacco barns, the substantial structures constructed at the National Parks during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Works Progress Administration (WPA), and the work of renowned Arkansas architect E. Fay Jones.

Perched on the edge of the forest overlooking the Distillery and downtown Lynchburg, the Barbeque was sensitively integrated within the site to limit adverse impacts. Shadley Associates located the structure and provided the precedent studies. Poss Architecture of Aspen, Colorado, was the design architect, and L. Hughes Associates of Huntsville, Alabama, was the Architect of Record.

With all these notable enhancements, the Jack Daniel's Distillery should soon be welcoming a daily throng of thousands of captivated visitors once again.

As seen in LASN magazine, August 2020.


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